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Keeping Students Engaged:
A Tale from Introductory Chemistry
By Kevin Revell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry and Consultant · Sapling Learning
I’ve been experimenting with differentiated learning; that is, using different techniques to connect with students’ unique learning styles. As I mentioned in Part I, I’ve found using Sapling Learning’s online homework to be one of the most effective tools for student engagement, and it is fairly common for me to see >90% of my students doing their homework assignments. In this post, I would like to mention another technique which I’ve found helpful: lecture recording.
I first tried lecture recording with my organic chemistry class in the fall of 2012. Our school has a subscription to Tegrity (other products like Echo360 are also available), which enables the professor to record a voice-over of the screen projection. I use a tablet PC in class and provide skeletal slides beforehand. During class, I would work through the slides, and record the conversation. Because it was recorded in a live class and unedited, the audio was rough in parts, but if the students missed a topic, they could go back and listen later.
A few weeks into testing this out, our instructional technology coordinator let me know that my recordings had been watched 110 times! This was encouraging, so I continued it the following semester, in my large, introductory chemistry class. What I found was really interesting: while only 40% of my introductory chemistry students watched the lecture replays even once, about 10% of my students watched them voraciously. By the end of the semester, I had multiple students who had watched over twenty hours of class recordings. These results were included in paper published in J. Chem. Educ., available here.
I found that many of the heaviest users were international/ESL students. Through the semester, several of these students told me how helpful this was for them, since they sometimes struggled to catch the subtleties of what I said in class. In fact, by mid-semester, if I said anything in class without turning the recording on, anxious hands would go up, reminding me to hit “start”.
In the two semesters since, I’ve transitioned to recording content outside of class, and using it in either a flipped format, or simply having the lecture material available online for review. I increasingly find that students love the video format - it seems to be the preferred learning style for many in this generation.
What about the correlation between viewing time and class performance? From what I’ve seen, the highest performing students don’t watch the recorded content as much, perhaps because they get it in class the first time. I think that completing homework correlates more closely with performance. Still, I believe that recorded lecture content can go a long ways toward supporting struggling students by helping them catch up on things they may have missed. And the more ways we can help our students learn, the better.
Do you use online homework or lecture capture in your flipped or hybrid classroom? Tell us how these techniques have impacted engagement among your students in the comments below.
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